“It is a work in Progress” – Artist Uche Iwuoha
The second edition of the Abuja International Photo Festival kicked off last Monday.
Themed Photography for Socio-economic Development, its objective is to challenge photography to go beyond recording the social events to shaping national discuss towards expanding the space for the practice of the art form.
The festival, which prides itself as a convening platform for the city’s photography community saw increased space with a movement from Thought Pyramid Gallery to the Exhibition Pavilion, maximised masterclasses, and the introduction of panelists’ sessions including the anticipated Sisters’ Art, targeted at inspiring young women and girls interested in photography.
It also attracted previous facilitators as, Don Barber, Ebiware Okiy and new ones, as popular artists, Uche James Iroha, Aisha Augie-Kuta and Hakeem Salaam.
Commending the consistency of the organisers, veteran photographer, Don Barber, however, expressed disappointment that the festival’s exhibition didn’t feature any works from participants in the maiden edition.
Barber said the presence of images documented by the participants of the previous edition, would have injected a healthy dose of competition that would excite new comers as well as old ones, and indicate evidence of growth.
However, Iroha observed that the festival, still in a sitting stage, is a work in progress, and will continue to evolve. “Photography is not something you sit to consume, it is something you go out to share. It might be they are exploring that which they have picked up previously, which I think is a good way to go,” Iroha reasoned.
He pointed out that in terms of photography, Abuja, a city of less than 30 years of existence with a thin social system, leans more to government administration and politics. “It will take arts to humanise this society. If we have more arts, photography, dance, drama and other areas of the humanities discipline, maybe Abuja would experience wider latitude in its social system.
Meantime, he recommends an improvement in the publicising of the festival via the internet and the attendees, and detailed attention to the running of the newly introduced masterclasses.
Speaking on its hugest challenge, funding, Osaze Ekahtor admits he has had to push forward this year without some of the support he had last year. “The festival is not income generating, and owing to that some withdrew, but nature abhors vacuum, as some withdrew, the gap they left behind is refilled by new people. The festival will always find the support we need.”
“My staying power is the passion to see the existence of a photography community in the city of Abuja. That’s what made me keep at it. We have self-funded the festival for two years with the added contributions of friends.”
While the Embassy of Indonesia and Institut Francais’ support were more physical than financial and in-kind, UNESCO provided technical support.
Ekhator however, says while they are open to collaboration, they are not in a hurry to do so. “We are still in the infancy stage, we don’t want to lose our identity and so we are particular about building our identity, which would take a few years.”
With regards to the future, the festival, he confirmed, would improve upon its exhibition platform, with a little tweaking of its masterclasses.